Not all teenagers are model citizens. Those who find themselves in juvenile detention might have committed acts or crimes or otherwise left the police with no options but to detain them. But when a child in juvenile lock-up is injured while in detention, it’s the responsibility of the authorities to attend to those injuries.
This week, a 17-year-old died while in the custody of Miami-Dade juvenile lockup. Elord Revolte was injured in a clash with other detainees but the staff waited until the following day to take him to the hospital.
County and state juvenile justice administrators are left to determine why Mr. Revolte’s injuries were not attended to, and attorneys who advocate for children abused or injured in the child welfare or criminal justice systems are left again to wonder what went wrong.
The tale is not unique. Mr. Revolte was a foster child who had been roaming the streets. When he died in detention following his arrest on Aug. 28, he became the second such child death in a Department of Juvenile Justice detention center this year, according to news reports.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking to learn of the death of this young man,” Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly said in a statement. “In addition to [an] investigation being conducted by Miami-Dade police, the department has initiated our own investigation to ensure that our very high standards of accountability and transparency are met and all proper procedures were followed.”
“If policies or procedures were not followed,” she continued, “we will hold the appropriate individuals accountable.”
It’s critical that child welfare and juvenile justice authorities not only hold accountable the individuals who should have addressed Mr. Revolte’s medical needs. They need to follow where the facts lead them. In this case, as the second such death this year and one of a string of such deaths of children under the care of the child welfare and juvenile justice system, the facts could just lead them to the department itself.
Follow the facts, address issues, improve care and oversight, and ensure that kids in the system are protected. That should be the mission of those whose jobs it is to care for – even in detention – children in the social services system.